At the time Adam Murray exited the One Call Stadium back in November, it seemed that all Mansfield Town fans had to look forward to was a season of lower mid-table mediocrity. But their resurgence under Steve Evans has seriously raised those expectations.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. After all, the colourful coach has already chalked up eight promotions in his managerial career, including taking Rotherham United from League Two also-rans to a stable Championship outfit in just over three years.
Since his arrival, the Stags have taken 24 points from 13 league games – but it’s their very recent form which has impressed most. The Nottinghamshire outfit have only conceded once in their last six league outings, as well as knocking League One Oldham Athletic out of the EFL Trophy in a comfortable 2-0 win.
Evans’ savvy January business certainly explains their impressive form in some part, though it’s a certain striker who has actually looked the most influential buy of the window so far.
Shaquile Coulthirst – on loan from Peterborough United – looks every inch the ideal goal-poacher at this level, as his instinctive winner away at Cambridge United last month proved. That’s one of two goals he’s netted in three games so far.
In fact, there’s an argument they now have the most complete strike force in League Two, with the reliable goal threat of Matt Green now complimented by the likes of Coulthirst, the pace and finishing of Pat Hoban and the sheer physicality of another newboy – Yoann Arquin.
And January’s 3-1 defeat of Cambridge – the only time the U’s have shipped three or more goals in their last 31 games – really underlined those credentials.
But it’s defensively where Evans has really found the defensive formula for the Stags.
His preferred back four of Malvind Benning, Krystian Pierce, Hayden White and Rhys Bennett are now playing together week-in, week-out and it seems to be working wonders. Visitors Leyton Orient limited to just four shots in the last game at One Call Stadium, as Mansfield won 2-0.
Their fantastic recent form has left the Stags in eighth place, just two points off the play-off places, and with the likes of Portsmouth, Luton Town and Wycombe Wanderers all enduring patchy runs, they look set to take advantage.
And now is surely the time to get on Mansfield success, with such a kind run of games coming up. In fact, five of the Stags’ next six opponents are currently sitting in 15th place or below.
Next up for Mansfield is the visit of Hartlepool United on Saturday, with the Stags 8/11 to enjoy a fourth successive league victory.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing